What's with the fascination with "Web Celebs" June 16, 2000 9:25 AM   Subscribe

What's with the fascination with "Web Celebs" (aka "The Web Elite") here? Why do we all worship them? Why do we all hate them?

I want this out in the open and settled. It's been brewing with the angry trolls for waaaaay too long.

Anonymous posts are unwelcome.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom to MetaFilter-Related at 9:25 AM (16 comments total)

Any time there's someone that "everybody" knows, everybody talks about them, because everybody likes to gossip about other people, and those "celebs" are the only people that everybody knows.

It's a self-perpetuating thing. Person A says: "You read Kottke too? Oh, because you like Osil8. I found Kottke linked from someone else's weblog. I dunno though-- do you remember when he wrote [something]? I thought that was kinda lame..." But the mere fact that Person A is talking about Kottke reinforces Kottke's fame. Multiply that by 500 and that's the "weblog community", IMO.
posted by wiremommy at 3:20 PM on June 16, 2000

Here's my take on the situation: I find it amazing how folks who've been running a website for a year or two feel that it's now their time to mentioned in the same echelon as those who have done little things here and there like make browsers conform to W3C standards, y'know junk like that...

To me it's like multi-level marketing or a pyramid scheme(same thing)... you start at the bottom level, the people above you move up one, as people come in under you, you move up... ad infinitum...

Using that MLM analogy ask yourself is the guy on the higher level a better salesman than you? No. He was just there before you. Just as there's a possibility that someone two levels down can whoop your ass at design...uh I mean selling Amway products. Some rise up faster than others, and some stay where they are because they suck as salesmen....

Eventually these pyramids get too large and begin to break apart and form their own pyramids, their own worlds, their own people... You got Jeffrey Zeldman in Gotham City, Derek Powazek in Metropolis, Lance Arthur in Central City, Aureia Harvey in Riverdale, etc... they all know each other from when they were at the bottom of the pyramid when Tim Berners-Lee sat down with Al Gore and said "Hey let's make the Internet!" Now they have all "their people" that they talk about and hob-nob with the other people from other pyramids occasionally in cross-overs. (I guess this makes MetaFilter "The Hall of Justice" or "Avengers Mansion", huh?)

People at the bottom or middle of the pyramid just don't get the concept that this all took time to gain this recognition and notoriety for their work... it didn't happen overnight.

I guess what I'm trying to say is...you wanna be on top? Form your own pyramid with your own people, and your time will come. There's nothing wrong with wanting recognition... it just takes time to get, and doing a lot of good projects on the web, that's all.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 7:36 PM on June 16, 2000

Well, being the paranoid lunatic I am, I know that the real person behind the internet is Vannevar Bush, and he was working under the supervision of the Space Brothers, who were just a front for Nyarlathotep...anyway, we were talking about the "Internumminaries" or whatever?

My problem's pretty basic; I have very little fucking clue who these people are or why I should care. I don't get it. I fundamentally don't understand why people who basically noodle with code should be spoken of with such reverance. Did they invent some magnificent cure for some disease I missed? Are they somehow smarter, faster, better than the rest of us? Did Yahweh reach down his golden hand and brush them on the forehead with his magical touch?


I'm sure they're nice folks (Jeffrey seems like a pleasant enough fellow, and Derek and I have exchanged emails) who know far more about computers and the potential of the industry than I ever shall. So what? I know how to gut and dress an animal in five minutes, how to shoot a modified Stery-Aug so that most of the rounds go center mass, and the special places on the human body that will render even the largest musclebound Kung-Fu master a babbling baby on the ground. Doesn't make me special.

What the hell difference does the web make in most people's lives? Not much. It's amazing, the fisheye view you get if you stay on-line too long, as if it's somehow vital. I recently spent the day (today, in fact) talking to a young woman about various things. She's going to be a veterinarian. When she asked what I'm doing with my Master's Degree and I told her not much, she wondered if she could somehow see some of my writing. I told her some of it was on-line, and I was willing to tell her how to get it.

"Can't you just, y'know, print it? I don't like to waste time with all that." This is in Blacksburg, one of the more connected college towns on the East Coast, mind you. A Polytechnical Insititute. And her opinion is not exactly unique to her. A librarian at VT finds the web puerile.

"You'll never meet these people. Amazon runs consistently in the red, dot coms fold all the time. It's like a Ponzi scheme. It's a toy."

I don't agree, but at the same time, I get their point. While the world is changing, it's hardly doing so in a Science-Fictional, Change or Die way. It's more like a river, pulling us downstream, and we don't really know who the important visionaries are yet. We may think we know, but we only see from the river. To the people on the banks, it's just muddy water.

I guess that's all. People will no doubt think I'm putting MeFi or specific people down, but I'm not. Just trying to give an outsider's view. After all, if I didn't think something grand was at least stirring here, why would I bother trying to be part of it?
posted by Ezrael at 8:08 PM on June 16, 2000

I think it is valid to consider a person a celebrity within the context of our limited community (or subculture or whatever). I don't see anything wrong with that. And it does seem reasonable to consider someone like Kottke to be a "celeb" in that context. Maybe not fair, but reasonable.

I personally wouldn't consider someone a celeb if they cured some disease, got tickled by Yahweh, or even if they are really smart. Why would I care about that crap?

My point is that "celeb" is a societal thing and it's the members of that society that decide (by unspoken consensus) who is or isn't.

I've read several web people claiming, "I'm not a celeb." Well, you can't really get away with that. By your words and deeds, we all get to pin that label on whoever we want. Kinda sucks.

I'm rambling, and I think I might be full of shit. I gotta go.......
posted by y6y6y6 at 10:41 AM on June 17, 2000

Well, Yahweh's a damn good tickler. Better than the French.
posted by Ezrael at 12:26 PM on June 17, 2000

Well... they were a lot prouder of wearing the tag "web celeb" until the hate mail & resentment came flooding in...

If you remember this time last year or so, they were *all* coining that phrase on their sites....

Nothing wrong with enjoying a little notoriety, they made it looks so fun it, made me want to be a "web celeb" for a while... but now that it's all becoming a backlash, they're all claiming to be "regular Joes"... heh! Like I'd ever believe that they're mere mortals like the rest of us. :0)
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:27 PM on June 17, 2000

That should read: "made me want to be a 'web celeb' one day"

It almost sounded like one of the lonely serbs here dared to claim he was a web celeb "for a while".

God I'm gonna fucking die in obscurity...I hate when that happens.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 3:33 PM on June 17, 2000

It could be worse...you could die in Saskatchewan or Hoboken. That would really suck.

Me, I wanna die with my hands around someone's neck, strangle-strangle, taking him with me. But I'm evil that way.

Also, when I die, I'm leaving all of my fortune to charity! That's right, charity! HAHAHHAHAHAHHAHAH!
posted by Ezrael at 9:03 PM on June 17, 2000

Alright, talk homicidal tendencies to me baby! :0)
(not going fruity here, just wanna make sure none of them sissy web celebs come walkin' in on our conversation)

You may wanna consider coming up to the Poconos late October. I have a serious vendetta with them deers. I'm not allowed to have a gun, so you gotta teach me how to kill them suckers with our bare hands...

I tried last year, but them fuckers can run!
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 9:41 PM on June 17, 2000

Hoboken... eeew
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:01 PM on June 17, 2000

Well, in all seriousness, are you forbidden bow and arrow? If'n ya want, I c'n teechify ya'n how ta shoot'um wit dat.

Wow, for a second, I actually thought my name was Cletus. Gotta remember I'm an edicate redneck nowun.
posted by Ezrael at 10:14 PM on June 17, 2000

Man you sound like all the locals here for a second. :0)
With the Pocono 500 going on at the raceway it's a veritable "White Trash Convention" out here.

May I never loose my Brooklyn/Queens accent.

I had one of those mini-crossbow guns at my summer place... but someone broke in over the winter, made themselves at home, and left with it.

My wife found $500 under a couch cushion. She kept the money...so I'm still considering this a loss here. :0(
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 10:52 PM on June 17, 2000

So... The topic has shifted a bit no problem. Uhhh.....

I do not support the idea of "web Celebs" with guns. This is a total pervertion of the whole motivation behind making them a celebrity in the first place.

I also think it is wrong for "web celebs" to steal things from Eric's cabin. This is just wrong.

I don't have a problem with "web celebs" from Saskatchewan or Hoboken. That seems okay to me.

"Well, in all seriousness, are you forbidden bow and arrow?" Please say it is so.
posted by y6y6y6 at 1:14 PM on June 18, 2000

I don't have a problem with "web celebs" from Saskatchewan or Hoboken. That seems okay to me.

Well, I have a problem with anyone from Hoboken (except Frank Sinatra...but that's a moot point now, ain't it?)

I give up on this thread... everyone had their chance to pitch a bitch, cause I'm so tired of the whining.
posted by EricBrooksDotCom at 11:45 PM on June 18, 2000

I've been called a "web celeb" before, and perhaps it was the way I read it, but I didn't exactly take it as a compliment. To the few who seem to view me that way, I'm apparently more infamous than famous. If the online personal narrative community were like The Flinstone Kids, I'm that obnoxious little guy with the storm cloud over his head that everyone is tolerantly polite to but really tries to avoid.

It doesn't matter. I'm "infamous" to less than a score of people online. To the rest I'm nothing. Probably best that way.

Because true web celebrity (if there can feasibly be such a thing) is something to be earned. Not because you WANT to be a web celebrity. It is a byproduct of your efforts and your unrelated yet online goals. And it should not be something "elitist" though by necessity that is what it inevitably becomes. It is a mob mentality of people bestowing kudos on others who do not ask for it and may not even appreciate the attention.

Derek set out to create The Fray. Jason Kottke achieved success with Osil8. Lance Arthur's claim to fame is Glassdog. These people and many more are renowned for their effort and success in accomplishing tasks and creating web-based environments which have put smiles on the faces of many a cyber-enthusiast. Their efforts are commendable because a great amount of people have found enjoyment and pleasure in their accomplishments.

Perhaps their greatest achievement is that they successfully did or made or created or accomplished... something, and that something caused others to think and feel and perhaps even do, encouraging others to try their hand at building and creating and making and doing and expressing nad accomplishing and ..y'know.. living.

I have found it amusingly ironic that for years people who do not use the Internet tell those of us who do to get a life. I think for some of us, that's precisely why we turn to the 'Net: to get a life. To take hold of this tool called cyberspace and invent and create and express and do and live.

Some people are admittedly better at it than others, and those individuals deserve to be commended. For the rest of us, life is the only award really required.

The rest of it, puerile or precious, tasty or tart, is just icing on the cake.
posted by ZachsMind at 7:57 AM on June 19, 2000

posted by rachel at 10:46 AM on July 13, 2000

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